French OpenGrand SlamsRoger Federer

French Open Draw 2021

Djokovic, Nadal and Federer All Land in the Same Half of a Grand Slam Draw for the First Time

The 2021 French Open draw took place today behind closed doors and sees Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer all drawn in the same half of a Grand Slam tournament for the first time.

Federer is returning to Roland Garros after missing last year's tournament due to his knee injury and will face a qualifier in his opening match. 

You can see his projected opponents below.

Federer's Projected Opponents

federer monfils
  • Round 1: Denis Istomin
  • Round 2: Marin Cilic
  • Round 3: Taylor Fritz
  • Round 4: Matteo Berrettini
  • Quarter Final: Novak Djokovic
  • Semi Final: Rafael Nadal
  • Final: Dominic Thiem

Full PDF printable draw.

Thoughts on the Draw

french open draw 2021 federer

The first round sees Federer face off against Denis Istomin, who came through qualifying to make the main draw in Paris for the first time since 2018, having missed last years due to a positive covid test.

Federer holds a 7-0 record against the Uzbek, and surprisingly he also has more ATP match wins than him this season. That's because Istomin hasn't played a match on tour yet; instead, he's been on the Challenger circuit without much success.

Istomin is a solid ball striker, and we all remember his big win against Djokovic at the Australian Open in 2017. Still, clay is his worst surface, and he's not an elite mover, so it'd be a big surprise to see Federer come unstuck here. 

Roger has been playing far better players in practice than Istomin, and while your results in practice don't count for much in the heat of battle, I expect him to come through in straight sets.

Round 2 likely sees Federer face long time friend and rival Marin Cilic. The Croat takes on local wildcard Arthur Rinderknech in the first round, who made the quarter-finals in Lyon last week, beating Jannik Sinner on the way.

That's not an easy match for Cilic, this is his worst Grand Slam, and he's coming in with a W4:L4 record during the clay swing, losing his last match to another wildcard, Dominic Stricker at the Geneva Open.

For the third round, Taylor Fritz is the 30th seed, and although he made the final here in the Juniors back in 2015, I don't really rate his clay game, so he'll need to play well to see off Joao Sousa in round 1, and then either Matthias Bourge (WC) or Dominik Koepfer in round two.

The last sixteen has Matteo Berrettini as the top seed, and he's a big favourite to come through that section. I can't see Kevin Anderson or Felix Auger-Aliassime doing too much damage, and no other names really stand out. 

Djokovic is the number one seed in Federer's quarter, and he looked to be finding his feet in Rome and will likely win the title in Belgrade this week.

Nadal is, therefore, the top seed in the other quarter, and although he has a tricky opener against Popryrin, his draw looks fairly clear to the last four.

Depending on who Federer draws in round one, I think he can win three matches in Paris. Cilic doesn't move well enough these days and has always had mistakes in him.

Fritz has a pretty big serve and can reel off points quickly, but over five sets, assuming Fed is up to the task physically, I'd fancy him to move him around too much and come through.

The Other Half of the Draw

thiem backhand

With the two big names in the top half, the bottom half presents a great opportunity for Thiem, Zverev and Tsitsipas to reach the final. Casper Ruud and Cristian Garin aren't too far behind either, so this is the more interesting half for the neutral.

You also have the likes of Fognini, Delbonis, Dimitrov, Carreno Busta, Isner, Korda, Raonic, Khachanov, Evans and Norrie all in this half so it's really wide open for someone to put together a deep run.

I'd pick Zverev to make the final given his draw, but Tsistipas isn't far behind. The questions marks are instead over Thiem, who has had a poor season so far, but if he can get on it mentally, you can't rule him out given his track record in Paris.

And finally, will Medvedev win a match in Paris? He faces Bublik in round one, which is the 🍿 match.

Federer's First Hit in Paris

Hitting with one of the players of 2021 so far, Aslan Karatsev.

What do you guys think of the draw? What can Federer do in Paris? Let me know in the comments.

Jonathan

Huge fan of Roger Federer. I watch all his matches from Grand Slam level right down to ATP 250. When I'm not watching or writing about tennis I play regularly myself and have a keen interest in tactics, equipment and technicalties of the sport.

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93 Comments

      1. Agree, if he can reach R4 to meet Berettini, it wold be huge. Then the story against “the hammer” would be over on clay anyway.
        In Fed we trust…Amen

      2. @DrEvil
        IN FED WE TRUST. Have they placed this on highest value Swiss banknotes? Are you copyright owner? When Fed reaches 100. GS, you should give it the Swiss Bank for free πŸ™‚

  1. If he can get through the opening match he’s actually capable of going very far indeed, although he’ll need a big helping hand from sb to take out Nadal/Djoker. Any thoughts on who could do a Soderling? Popyrin perhaps? Or is this just very wishful thinking?

    1. Very wishful πŸ˜‰ Popyrin can nothing. Nobody takes out Djoker before eventually Berrettini, bu Berretttini will first take out Federer πŸ˜‰
      Gaston can take out Nadal, if he can play 58+ good dropshots (with 58 last year he took Thiem to 5 sets). Then maybe Sinner, Schwartzman or Rublev, but this would only play in Djoker’s hands.
      I expect, Nadal goes rambling to the final and meets there Thiem, Tsitsipas or Zverev.
      3 wins for Fed would be perfect and is possible, if he can play without fear about his knee . Of course must play every match to be less than 2 hours 3-setter πŸ™‚

    2. I think Popyrin can get a set, and if conditions are helping him, ask plenty of questions. But Nadal is a big favourite to play well into the second week. Somebody needs to take him five and make it physical to defeat him, the reverse of what you previously needed to do 😁

      1. That high note for Popyrin? He is lifetime 5/8 (W/L) on clay. How can he take a set from Nadal in Paris???
        Thiem playing like 2018 in USO QF would be the right man. Thiem lost by one missed smash but was fresh like a daisy after the match. Nadal could hardly stay on feet to do his usual celebration and was then not able to play Delpo and needed 3 months for recovery. Yeah – this was just making a Nadal match physical πŸ˜‰
        This year Nadal has a tough draw and will be maybe not that fresh in the final, but … nobody knows, what Thiem can this year.

  2. Given what I’ve seen so far I’m preparing myself for a first round exit.
    If he can somehow win 2 or 3 matches that will be enough of a confidence boost ahead of the grass. I’d take that right now.

  3. I agree about Fed being able to win 3 matches, which would be good enough for him
    on the road to Wimby.
    Nobody knows about where Thiem stands with his game. His problem is not strictly mental. He reached in New York his big goal (and this in complete Covid silence) and since then he cannot find a new drive for fighting. Thiem is sensible but is also intelligent and who knows, how much time he needs to decide, including retiring from tennis. He cannot click the reset button and start another 15 years of hardest work to maybe win another slam. Don’t see him leaving tennis at all and can imagine, beating Nadal in Paris could be motivating for him.
    He can lose the first match or he can fly high. If he does, Federer can meet him in the final, which I would like a lot πŸ™‚
    I’m also not sure if Tsitsipas and Zverev will not be tired after their efforts for the season so far. It’s now 5-setters. I’m not excited with the possibility, someone new or someone Not-A-Big-3 wins the crown. I would be excited with Thiem playing as usual and meeting one of Big3 in the final. Others can have their breakthroughs , but not on this level. Whoever eliminates one of Big 3 or one of Young 3/4 (Thiem. Zverev., Tsitsipas and maybe Rublev, will have his breakthrough.

    1. Ye I didn’t really mention Rublev in my post. His form tailed off after Monte Carlo. I have not heard about conditions yet in Paris? I saw something about the clay looking different.

      1. I have observed in this year’s clay tournaments most of people playing the usual hard court game, hitting hard and flat and it looked very similar to a hard court match? Is clay everywhere faster than usual worldwide?
        And I think, the classic high-topspin clay game has no more a clear edge over hard-court game on clay. All matches on clay Thiem lost this year were just against this type of players (Harris, Sonego, even Agut, but he his game has some classic aspects). Maybe only Nadal and Thiem still have 100% classic clay game, which must be perfect to still prevail. Or the court must be slow.
        Have watched a bit of qualifications and have seen the same, but this were outside courts, which were always faster than show courts, no?

      2. I have only seen practices so far, not sure how Chatrier is playing, the clay does look slightly different in colour though?

  4. I think you said it, really; much depends on which qualifier he’s drawn against. Carlos Alcaraz is still in among the talented youngsters as well. Has Fed been able to figure out what happened in Geneva & come up with a plan for that? Guess we’ll see next week. I was glad to see that He DID stay in Geneva for some additional practice with Tour guys after all.

      1. Yeah, clean hitting and Karatsev was for sure told what he needs to deliver. But first of all Fed’s body language was better, which may suggest, he is less scared about his knee. If legs are healthy and fit, you can more easily hit hard (and he needs to).

  5. Agree with you Jonathan, for me, unhappily no more than three matches in Paris… hope for best time , and if not nobody will change my opinion, he is the best tennis player ever:-)

  6. I wasn’t expecting much from Fed at RG, and that draw doesn’t make me change that opinion. No idea how far he’s going to go here – could be first round, could be way farther, or something in between.
    I can’t get used to the thought of Djok and Rafa being in the same half. Weird.

    1. And Federer πŸ˜‰
      Maybe it was meant to have at least one younger finalist Thiem had so far always had to beat Novak before taking on Rafa and then he was exhausted. This year Thiem could have his best chance with this draw, but nobody knows, where he stands and if fe can rise his game to peak in the final.

  7. Any tennis player who has suffered excruciating knee pain knows that Federer will unconsciously if not consciously shy away from repeating whatever situation caused his last injury. That psyche impediment can make a player over cautious and take the edge of his A game. His mental strength may get him past Jokovitch if the latter is off-balance that day but Federer will never beat Nadal on a post-traumatic stress encounter.

    1. The last knee problem was a long-standing thing that had been around for years, not a one-off event that caused it so if he is playing pain-free now, he might be able to free his mind from it once he plays a few matches in a row with no issue.

      1. Long-standing problems with knee have this disadvantage, it’s less probable to recover fast, because they must be degenerative if not direct-injury-caused.
        So even if pain-free, the performance of the knee will never be the old 100% back. But he has tools to replace it with hand skills and only run badly if ‘s a crucial point.

  8. I love Fed, but I imagine Rafa’s name is already etched on the tin! It feels like a foregone conclusion-he’s that good on the dirt. 13 titles. WTF! Incredible. Why not just mail him the trophy and save the time and expense? (I’m joking sensitives). Can’t see Fed making much of a push this year at RG unfortunately. Maybe Djok or Thiem will be a threat to Rafa or some newbie bolt-out-of-the-blue, but I doubt it?! Some in the media write off RN each year for whatever reason, but he always seems to bounce back and prove them wrong. If he nails 14, they’re gonna have to change the venue name to Rafa Garros and give Roland the flick.

    1. I agree. Nobody has as much to win or lose as Rafa, He will be the most determined person in Paris.

  9. I love Fed but I think this is a tough draw. He will do well to get to R4 and cilic will be harder than most think. Not his best surface and still feeling his way after surgery but he has a great serve and the best mover for the oversized guys. Roger is on the recovery mode too so it will be a very solid win for Rog if he succeeds.

    1. Cilic can be tough, but based on the level I have seen from him lately, Fed should be able to take care of him. I think the qualifier will be more dangerous.

  10. Many of us Hv Fed reaching R4 ( which wld be great) but I think Dominik Koepfer will be the main threat in that section. Fed needs to pace himself thru the tricky qualifier over the Bof5, and not panic if he starts badly. For me it’s about where he is mentally. Got to banish those nerves; Bof5 and good weather facilitating the day of rest will help him too.
    I hv already picked a Nadal/Stef final and hopefully a new champion…. 🀞

    1. Stef is overpumped, which will not help him. Nadal will take care of him with ease, should Stef reach the final

  11. Not a bad draw, coming through against Cilic and Fritz would certainly go a long away to sharpening him for the grass. After that, Berrettini may well be a step too far, but hey he is Roger Federer isn’t he? Supposing he makes the quarters where Novak Djokovic would almost certainly be waiting, as much as I would hate to see him lose yet another match to him, bearing in mind it would mean he’d have made the quarters it would still be a very positive tournament. As for Rafa in the semis, well I won’t even go there!

      1. Djoker is not in a great shape. Should be enough for Belgrade and then – maybe he rises every match and peaks in the final (as always) – but this time he would maybe need to peak in SF or even in QF.

  12. Btw Daniil Medvedev starts to like to play on clay in Paris ! According to him and D.Thiem during yesterday’s media day in RG the conditions are relatively comparable to a hardcourt.
    Could be good for the Fedmeister !

    1. That’s what I observed, while watching some qualification matches. Medvedev goes out in first round, whatever the surface πŸ˜‰
      Thiem actually likes faster surfaces too.
      Good for Fed.
      Bad for Nadal (if something can be bad for Nadal in Paris ;)).
      BTW – Fed has Istomin in first round. Quite a solid baseliner. If in good form, can serve well and hit long rallies, but falters on pressure points. Good one for Fed in round 1. Alcaraz is set to meet Rublev in round 2.
      Zverev and Tsitsipas have a cakewalk until they meet Thiem (if Thiem plays Thiem ;)).
      Fed’s body language in the first match, not the result, will tell us, what to expect from him.

    2. Have they changed the clay supplier? I read Sven Groenveld thought they may have, but not confirmed.

      The biggest threat for Nadal is a night session.

      1. Nah slower and heavier conditions, his spin will be less effective, whereas someone with a heavier shot can still do damage.

      2. But night session will don’t bother Rafa before – he has no potential hard hitters before the final (or you mean, Djoker is hitting hard???).
        Did you see Fed flying high in the practice with Goffin?

      3. Nadal has never played a night session in Paris before, nobody has… he has struggled in heavier conditions before in Paris though.

        Yes Fed looked good. Needs to take that form to the match court, he beat Fucsovics in practice in Geneva, so it means little.

      4. There are no threats for The KIng of Clay at RG, that’s wishful thinking. Grand Slam 21 is coming.

  13. It would be a great feat for Roger to win 3 consecutive clay matches at this stage,
    especially with potential 5 setters looming ahead. With all due respect to Roger I cant envision
    him reaching the semi’s,

  14. Fed’s record against Istomin is 7-0, though they haven’t played on clay. Denis has taken a set off him a couple of times. I’d have to call this pretty good luck for Fed in the qualie-allocation sweepstakes.

    1. Istomin hs not played a tour level match this year, so Fed is ahead of him there with 3! I think it’s a good opponent for Fed, would have been one of the ones I’d have handpicked.

  15. It was a treat to watch him training. The king is back – lose or win or whatever – tennis in royal style

  16. OLD HALF starting on Monday. Probably because of Djoker’s final in Belgrade today. YOUNG HALF starts tomorrow. but somehow without MEDVEDEV.

  17. Is it possible, first round to be played over 3 days? Only 20 men’s singles scheduled for tomorrow

    1. French Open always does it over 3 days. Bottom half are Sunday / Monday. Top half Monday / Tuesday.

      1. It should be that way for every Grand Slam, if you ask me. There’s always rain interruptions so better give them another day to re-schedule instead of making them play in consecutive days.

  18. Come on Rog, win the whole thing already.
    I’m surprised that no one noticed what the organization pulled before the draw. They were supposed to broadcast it like always (in fact only the seeded players, the rest were already sorted which always looked suspicious to me), yet they decided in the last minute to not show anything and later published the draw in full without anyone watching it.
    It’s clear to me that they rigged it on purpose to either take out Nadal or push a Next Gen into the final, or both. Nadal got the worst possible draw, and with the whole Big 3 in the same sector is even more treacherous.

    1. Like Nadal commented, it’s about ranking. Federer maybe the greatest among Big3 but when ranked 8, he is no more the top (4), who have some privileges to avoid each other. The same with Nadal – Nadal ranked 3. means only, he avoids his pair (Thiem) until the final. What is the form of every single player, is not taken into account in the draw. And Thiem was almost every time before a slam playing disaster.
      BTW, there are different points of view (and everything is speculation) – One may think, it’s better to meet Nadal in semi than in final in Paris. But – actually since ages everyone loses to Nadal both in SF and in F (of course also in every earlier round).
      Has Nadal really worst possible draw?
      Nadal has only one treat in his quarter – it’s Rublev. Rublev is not a big threat in 5-setters. Then in SF he has Federer (let’s be superoptimistic) or Djokovic. Just perfect for semifinal. Cannot have Alcaraz or Ramos Vinolas in SF πŸ˜‰ And then he avoids most young threats and gets only one, in the final, where he is the king and I think, only Thiem at his best could beat him in the final.
      IMO the draw is well balanced and Big3 all in one half is nothing special (would be 2-3 years ago, with Big 3 staying 1-2-3 in the ranking.

      1. It is quite amazing how you keep bringing over and over Thiem as huge threat for Nadal at RG when they played 4 matches and he was only able to take one set from Rafa lol.

        Nowadays the player who can better compete against The King is Tsitsipas but still with no chance really.

  19. never been so excited about tennis since the 90s. picked up a new racquet and started playing after 20 years. the lockdowns sure had some positive effects. Oh yeah I hope a serve/volley players wins this!

  20. I thought in Geneva the problem was not physical but purely mental, Federer got tight suddenly and got broken twice in a row after holding well the whole 2nd and early 3rd set. That or he is afraid to go for his shots.
    Still I think he can play into form if he survives the first match , dropping just a set hopefully at most.

    Unfortunately nobody looks capable of beating Nadal here, Thiem has poor form coming in, and on clay Djokovic can’t do it anymore. He should have been Nadal in Rome but it’s too frustrating.

    Well maybe Nadal will have night matches in the rain πŸ™‚ But otherwise get ready for a few weeks of the ‘greatest (and humblest of course) ever’.

    1. Thiem has poor form before every slam, then reaching semis, finals and finally winning in New York). Which is of course not a fixed relation. Poor form leading-in, top form in the tournament (after almost being exited in some of early rounds). These are only records. Of course Nadal’s wins are only records. Some day your records can/must collapse. With many potential reasons.

      1. “Poor form leading-in, top form in the tournament”, you forgot the most important one, no big 3 on his way.

      2. @Pablo
        You didn’t understand what I’m talking about. I’m talking about “history”. So far it was always “poor form before the tournament”, at least 2 Big3 on the way (in Paris and in other slams it was similiar).
        2017 – lead-in disaster, in Paris Thiem defeated Djokovic in QF, lost in SF to Rafa.
        2018A – lead-in disaster, This time no Big3 (Federer withdrew after injury, Djokovic was in poor shape and lost to Cecchinato in QF – so this year 1 Big 3 was injured, another was not so big) and lost to Nadal in F
        2018B – US Open – Thiem’s lead-in biggest disaster ever. Thiem loses to Nadal by one missed smash in 5-th set tie-breaker in QF but Rafa is not able to play the SF.
        2019 – lead-in disaster (Rome again) – Federer in another half but not counting to Big3 on clay), Thiem battles through Djokovic in SF and loses to Nadal in F (but first time taking a set)
        2020 – Forget it (in this aspect). Thiem had no lead-in at all and had no chance to go deep.
        2021 – Thiem’s lead-in disaster – Paris – we don’t know yet.

      3. Somehow implyig that being in poor form somewhat a good thing for Thiem because whatever happened in the past is nonsense.

        And here you have a first round loss.

  21. Came here late for the draw post (wow 3 kings together, ha!) but not gonna miss celebrating the 10th anniversary πŸ₯³
    Happy peRFect Tennis birthday!
    Congrats for the fab job year after year, Jonathan.

    1. Ah thanks, I did think about that earlier this month but then forgot all about it when it actually rolled around. A decade of peRFect Tennis. I was expecting the ATP to create a video where the players send me a message of congratulations.

  22. Should be a very interesting slam.
    I think we just need to be happy to see Fed play as sadly I don’t see him winning anymore slams.
    As for Nadal,all good things come to an end eventually.It is an interesting draw,with the old gen(as it were )in the top half and the new gen in the bottom.Hmmm.
    As for Sues point about Nadals knees,it is ironic that Nadal has complained about his knees for years and yet it is Fed who has operations on his😎

  23. Well, that was a poor performance from Thiem, his level was all over the place. One minute he was hitting winners, the next couldn’t find the court. He also doesn’t look as strong physically as normal? Andujar played solid, no nonsense.

    1. I wasn’t surprised at that result, actually. From what Thiem said in his press conference, I did wonder whether there was some post-viral thing going on somewhere, or even mono.

  24. Yes – surprising match. The bottom half of the draw is pretty open now – can’t see many of them being able to beat Nadal or Djokovic in the final.

      1. CarreΓ±o will beat Tsitsipas and I can’t see Zverev reaching the quarterfinals.
        Anyone could be in the final.

  25. Hmm just checked the scores and saw Thiem dropped the next 3 sets (!) He plays an all out style so it will take its toll, but he’s not even 30. Oh well maybe Fed’s loss in Geneva wasn’t so surprising if even Thiem ca’t beat this guy…

    That whole half looks weak outside of Tisitsipas. But I agree with the comment above, a ‘just OK’ Nadal is unbeatable. Only a fully healthy Djokovic could take him out on clay.

  26. What a surprise,or perhaps not.Thiem hasn’t been in great form and Andujar has just beaten Fed.I don’t think I have ever seen him play or know what he looks like!
    Oh well,upwards and onwards.

  27. I see Roger’s not scheduled to play on Chatrier before 4 pm French time tomorrow. Followed by Serena’s “night” match not before 9 pm. Could be rather slim pickings for anyone who has a ticket for Chatrier tomorrow?

  28. Hey Jon, congrats on the 10 year Anniversary πŸ™‚ Totally forgot about it, thanks Sweet Wanda for reminding us all. Also congrats to us all here and especially to the Goat Roger Federer. Because he is still playing after a decade, you can have this very amazing blog πŸ™‚
    I bet you Jon, he will still play another 10 years πŸ™‚ Are you up for that πŸ™‚

    Thanks for all what you do for us Jon and thank you too Roger πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

  29. And… since no one is saying it… and since no one WILL say it…. and you have to have atleast one crazy cook cook person here…. well let that be me then πŸ™‚ …. Here goes:

    ROGER FEDERER TO WIN ROLAND GARROS 2021 πŸ™‚ BOOM πŸ™‚ Nailed it. Called it. BOOM πŸ™‚

    You never know…. crazier things have happened… anyone thought two years ago about a worldwide pandemic?? See…. crazier things can happen πŸ™‚

    1. Oh my God, hey Sweet Sweet Sweet Dolores, how are you?? So good to hear from you πŸ™‚ Hope you are doing fine, healthwise too. Please take care of yourself. Afterall, you are Roger’s first and most beloved almost 96 years old !!! fan πŸ™‚
      Take care of yourself and enjoy the Goat πŸ™‚ One GS Trophy coming up πŸ™‚

  30. Dear Katyani, Love hearing from you , thank you for your kind words. You bet, am an enthusiastic fan of Roger Federer, the GOAT! His love for the game of tennis, his family, his fans….and you, Katyani, are one his most enthusiastic fans. Love it! Chuckled….”One GS Trophy coming up”. Keep in touch.

  31. Greetings to you from an old RF fan, 95! Was tickled to read your comment, Katyani, you are a sweetheart. Yes, am following Roger’s games closely, he is the GOAT, no doubt in my mind.
    Go Roger!
    Dolores

  32. Taking numbers into consideration; is Roger not supposed to be in the bottom half rather than the top half? Just wonder!
    Another thing that irritates me -so to speak- is seeing men playing in ‘tank-tops (sleeveless)!

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